March 2018
Howle's Hints

March Moves

“Take time for all things: Great haste makes great waste.” ~ Ben Franklin

March is a month that moves fast. Pasture grass will soon turn from dead brown to lush green, seemingly overnight. Tom turkeys will go from being silent woodland foragers to booming gobblers looking for mates. With winter and spring calving, herds will soon increase in size. As things move fast in March, make sure you take extra time to think before acting when completing chores and projects around the farm.

There is an old carpenter’s saying, "Measure twice and cut once." I learned this rule repeatedly during a recent project of moving a workshop from my neighbor’s property to mine. The shop was 16.5-by-14.5.

It presented a daunting task to move an entire building, but I had some seasoned help and good advice.

My neighbor, Clayton Vaughn, is a Vietnam veteran and a great American. He grew up running coon dogs and bear hunting in the mountains of North Carolina. His family learned to improvise and get things done around the farm with very little money.

His ingenuity came in handy on this project.


Clayton Vaughn installs diagonal braces throughout the interior of the structure to prevent warping and flexing.

Bracing for the Move

The first thing we did to prepare the building for moving was to brace the interior of the structure. Top plates, walls, rafters, corners and door frames were braced with 1-by-4 and 1-by-6 saw-milled poplar planks. We used poplar because it is lightweight and easy to work with. It is also strong enough to keep the building from flexing.


Jack the Structure

To be able to attach planks to the bottom of the structure, it was necessary to jack up the building high enough to get underneath. Here is where we truly needed to be alert and use all our common sense. We made sure to take the time to create flat, level surfaces where the cap blocks or jack supports were placed. The last thing we wanted was for the building to come off the jack supports or blocks while anyone was underneath it.

We took our time and jacked it slowly, one side at a time by a small degree each time. We continually checked the building for giving or stress points.

Jack up the pine pole until it is flush against the 2-by-6 plank and mount it with lag bolts and wood screws.


When it was high enough off the ground to work safely underneath and there were plenty of jack supports, it was ready to add the skids.


Hit the Skids

With 3-inch wood screws, we attached two 2-by-6 treated planks across the floor joists and extending at least 2 feet past the front and back of the building.

Next, treated two-by-fours were mounted on the sides of the 2-by-6 planks to give them extra strength and prevent sagging.

Finally, we used a heavy-duty floor jack to lift two straight pine logs to the planks for mounting. The logs were about 8 inches in diameter, long enough for a couple of feet to stick out past the building. It was very important they were relatively straight. Three-inch screws and lag bolts were used to attach them. With the logs securely bolted, we didn’t have to attach them to the underside.


Clayton Vaughn puts long bolts through the log and 2-by-6 top plank. The log becomes a roll bar wrapped with a chain for towing.


Once the skid logs were in place, we cut a 45-degree angle on the front of each so they would slide instead of dig.

Then we bolted a 2-by-6 plank on the front and back of the building from skid to skid to prevent the logs from rolling and turning.

Finally, on the front, we bolted a short pine pole to the top of the 2-by-6, leaving space enough for a chain between the pole and building. We wrapped a heavy chain around the length of the log to allow us to tow the building with a tractor.

When the building was in its new location, we simply jacked it high enough to be set on cap blocks at the correct level. With the building leveled and off the ground, we took a chainsaw and cut off the skids and planks even with the sides of the building. The skid logs simply dropped off because they were not bolted to the underside.



This March, as things move quickly, take time to think through your projects and use the idea "measure twice and cut once" when working around the farm. Don’t be tempted to work in haste because you will be left with waste.


John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.